Oscar Pistorius, Paralympic athlete, has been cleared by the judge presiding over his trial of the two most serious murder charges against him on Thursday, almost certainly sparing him from a lengthy prison sentence. The judge abruptly suspended court proceedings for the rest of the day right as she appeared to be on the brink of declaring Pistorius guilty of a lesser crime, culpable homicide, in the shooting death of his girlfriend.
“We’ll have to stop here and resume tomorrow morning,” the judge, Thokozile Matilda Masipa, said less than half an hour after the session had resumed after a lunch break. She did not explain her reasoning behind the adjournment.
In three hours of detailed appraisal of a trial that has garnered much worldwide attention and has been compared to the O.J. Simpson case in the United States, Judge Masipa cleared Pistorius of two charges – premeditated murder, which carries a minimum mandatory term of 25 years, and a lesser charge of homicide known simply as “murder.”
Judge Masipa then turned to a lesser charge of culpable homicide, which is compared to involuntary manslaughter, and said Pistorius had failed three tests to be exonerated of the charge. The tests consider what a “reasonable” person would have done under the same circumstances.
Since his trial began in March, Pistorius, 27, a double amputee who has also challenged able-bodied runners, has faced accusations that he is responsible for taking the life of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, 29, when he fired into a locked bathroom door at his villa in Pretoria, the South African capital, on February 14, 2013. Pistorius insists that he killed Steenkamp, who was in the bathroom, by mistake, when he thought an intruder broke into his home.
The judge compared Pistorius’ reaction and behavior to that of the majority of people who live in South Africa who live under the daily threats of crime. “Many people in this country have experienced crime, but they have not resorted to sleeping with a firearm under their pillow,” she said.
“In my view, none of this evidence, from the state or defense, proves anything, she said. “Normal relationships are dynamic and unpredictable sometimes.”
There are no jury trials in South Africa, leaving the decision up to the judge with the help of two aides.
Oscar Pistorius Evades 2 Murder Charges, Spared Lengthy Prison Sentence